8.17.2009

Getting Over It

Apparently, when I was around 5 years old, I had some crazy issue with the way my shoulders looked, and I wouldn't wear anything that allowed them to be exposed. My sister tells me my little five year-old self was pretty adamant about it - no tank tops, no sundresses... I probably wore a t-shirt over swimsuits back them. I eventually got over this fixation and moved on to another: my discomfort with my rosy cheeks. I purchased and wore green tinted make-up when I was in high school - the idea is that red and green are complimentary colors on the color wheel and are supposed to sort of cancel each other out. If you mix red and green paint you get gray. Gray cheeks, I guess, seemed more appealing to me at the time than rosy red ones, so I wore that wretched foundation for a couple years. I can only imagine how silly I looked. I've still got the rosy cheeks but have pretty much gotten over worrying about those, too. My most recent and longest-lasting fixation is on my legs. Their shape, their size, the broken blood vessels on my left shin - I'm pretty hard on myself about most everything about them. I hate to admit that I'm hard on myself for something so petty, but I am.

I work in a boutique for women. I see women - all types of women - in various states of dress on a daily basis. Young and old, short and tall, little and big. I see how they look at themselves in the mirror; I hear what they say about their bodies. More often than not, as you'd probably guess, I hear them make negative comments about their bodies. The funny thing is, rarely do I notice the features that they're unhappily fixating on until they make disparaging comments about them. Even then, I usually have to try pretty hard to see that their shoulders are small in proportion to their hips or their calves are on the wide side or they don't have much of a waist or... whatever. The things that so many of us choose to fixate on about our bodies are usually inflated in our own heads and are often completely unnoticed by others.

What kills me is that knowing all of this and deeply believing that in the long run what we look like is really of minimal importance, I continue to unhappily fixate on the appearance of my legs. When it comes to my legs, I don't often think of the 20 miles or so that they run each week. I don't think of all of the bike rides that they allow me to enjoy, or of the long strolls with Barry that they take me on. But I'm trying. I'm trying to think about how lucky I am to have a strong, healthy body. I'm trying to wear clothing that I like, not just clothing that hides the parts of my body that I don't like (that means skirts in the summer, when there are no tights and tall boots to hide behind). I'm trying to imagine myself down the road as a little old wrinkled lady looking back on my life - will I still be fixated on my legs, or will I regret the amount of energy I wasted on feeling bad about myself for so long?

I'm not quite sure why I shared this with you here. I guess that admitting I have these feelings that I'm not proud of is part of my attempt at doing something about them. How about you? Got anything to get off your chest so you can get over it?

27 comments:

beki said...

Oh boy, I can relate to this! Just this morning, as I was slipping on a dress (instead of pants because they're too tight), I thought about how we really should try to focus on the positives of our bodies instead of the negative. I could go on and on about my jiggly midsection - it has always been a sore spot for me, and in recent years an even BIGGER sore spot, but I'm not going to go there. I can wear dresses that camouflage that and flatter other parts of my body, like my legs. Focus on the positive!

Mariss said...

I love what you just wrote. I think it's great to open up a subject that isn't often discussed, but what many women (and some men) go through. Especially in the blog-world where people sometimes feel the pressure to show how "perfect" they are.

I don't always love my body, and am victim to the things you mentioned. But at other times, I think that in 10 or 20 years, I'll wish I had appreciated it now.

My big thing is I have this keloid scar behind my left shoulder. It's smoothed out a bit now, but people always stare and make a big deal. It's not THAT big, but enough to be self conscious. The wedding dress that I got is strapless though, so I guess I'm getting over it.

Blood vessel, flood smechcel. I think you're great just as you are :)

kattmd said...

what a great post susan!
It's just perfect + so are you :)

I am trying to get back to my college weight. I'm a few months away from that goal, but when I think back to that time... I thought I was overweight + needed to lose 5-10 pounds. When in reality, I looked great. Just like Mariss said above, I wish, at that time, I appreciated how good I looked :)

I'm trying to teach my kids the importance of eating well and taking care of themselves... not for appearance sake, but for health sake.

The other day I was in a dressing room trying on some shirts and Davis my five year old said, "oh mummy you look great. I love that shirt" and my response? "Oh, I don't know, my arms look a bit fat don't they?" And she said, "no mummy you look beautiful." I felt bad for saying it, bc I knew I was teaching her to look critically at your body. I'll die if she says one day to me, "do my arms look fat?" So I am trying to quiet that negative naysayer and look at the good things. Life is way too short to worry about such silly things :)

bitter betty said...

Actually, it is funny that I post so many pictures of myself on my blog, because I really consider myself quite ...well, Funny Looking. I was actively teased about my looks in Jr. High and high school. And never dated but one boy in all those years that went to my own school.

I went to college to study acting, but quit acting because I didn't think I had the looks to make it professionally.

But I like confronting what I assumed I knew about myself and my looks, by presenting my actual physical self along with my projects. It makes it more of a roller coaster ride.

And yeah, I look back and think, "I should have enjoyed myself then because that was pretty good." And I bought a bikini this year thinking "Do this while you can!"

betsy and iya said...

Susan, you're just and inspiro-machine! The best part about this post, for me, is that I have the EXACT same issue as you. My legs. Those chunky hunks of love. Some days I hate them. And then I'm like...what the? Those dudes march you all around the world to be who you want to be...you are nothing without them!! Vicious cycle.

But recently I've been trying to wear dresses and skirts more above the knee---which, I'll have you know, scares the living s#$% outta me. But then I see pictures and I think, oh, it's not that bad, betsy! Like you said, I can't believe I spend so much time thinking about it.

Also, I 100% relate to what bitter betty said and often wonder why the h everyone likes my outfits-of-the-day. I'm sometimes baffled by my own choice to take so many pictures of myself!

Anyways, what I really wanted to say was, I think your legs are great! We should go get a drink and toast to our hot legs!!

-bets

Rachel said...

thanks for this post. i couldn't agree more with talking about something in an effort to let it go. i don't know you, but i'm chums with bets (above) and found your blog through her. i can't comment on your legs but i will say - you're brave. get on with it... remember that when you're ninety you'll wish you'd worn those skirts, and you'll cherish those walks with your man. that's the important stuff... not some broken veins on your leg - which, trust me, no one else notices.

no one. they don't. really. really, really.

don't just accentuate the positive - accentuate everything that is you at this moment. little quirks and all.

rachel. said...

have you ever heard the ani difranco song, present/infant?

"lately i've been glaring into mirrors picking myself apart.
you'd think at my age, i'd of thought of something better to do."

love it! you'd think, huh?

but the best line is: "i've got myself a new mantra
it says: 'don't forget to have a good time'"

so that's what i'll say to you (and to me and to my girlfriends and to everyone!): don't forget to have a good time :)

amy @ switz~art said...

you are phenomenal! this post is terrific and absolutely true. aside from the rosy cheeks thing (i am the opposite...super pale and would kill for rosy cheeks! yay!)...i am the same as you...lately it's been about my arms, or my pot belly (people ask if i am pregnant!!! grrr!) and also the spider veins i am getting on my legs. BUT you're right...we point these out and dwell on it and nobody cares.

my hubby doesn't even notice i have cellulite and doesn't care...i think what woman especially have to focus on (and guys too!) is to be confident in who we are; to be honest and loving...

really...that's all the matters!

thank you so much for posting this! i know it takes a lot of courage to send your opinions out there in blogland...kudos to you!

abbyglassenberg said...

It's all about hiding my belly. Anything to hide it. I like what you said that in the end what we look like matters very little. The people whom I admire most are almost always just regular looking people, with bulges here and acne there, but with amazing drive and personality. I want to be one of those people and I want to appreciate the healthy body that serves me so well.

Chickenbells said...

I have a varicose vein on the outer part of the behind my left knee. I do not wear skirts that rise above my knee, and haven't for years...I also have spider veins on the outer thigh of the same leg...which prevents me from wearing shorts in public (only when I'm hiking...) I know it sounds silly, but I also think I am too old for those things to look good...and I try to stick to what compliments my body in a better way, so that I personally feel good about the way I look. I know I am harder on myself than anyone else, but I also thank my body at yoga every week for getting me through...of course I'm going to be a bit battered here and there, right?

melissa f. said...

my chest. i would like to get my big, old chest off of my chest.

house on hill road said...

this is such a good post, susan.

for me, it'd be the blind eye that doesn't track all the time. but, hey, at least i have one that works well. that is something to be happy about.

Shona~ LALA dex press said...

I'm by no means old (I'm only 37) but the older I get, the less I give a shit. I have not let myself go by any means, not "not giving a shit" in that regard. I have no plans on having any plastic surgery so I'm stuck with this body, face, hair color + I am OK with it, flaws + all + no longer feel the need to measure myself against Christy Turlington because years ago I use to look at photos of her in mags + wonder why I didn't look like her, what could I do to look more like her, bla, bla, bla. Now I see that there are other things to spend my time on as opposed to being upset that I don't look like a supermodel.

Great post, sorry for my language in your comments section, I know we both have fowl mouths, but I tend to keep it clean blogs.

Artsy Momma said...

thank you for this. I have been battling lately with my body and instead of seeing the amazing things my body has done for me (helped me bring two beautiful children into this world) I focus on the negatives. Just yesterday I thought about doing a lemonade detox. because of this post I am going to do the right thing my body deserves a healthy diet, exercise and acceptance. Thank you for being my light at a dark spot in life without even meaning to. divine intervention at its greatest!

DAKOTA said...

It makes you think, it's good to be happy with what you have. :)

Sonya said...

Oh Susan. You have so elegantly stated what so many of us feel. I used to not wear bikinis because I didn't like my stomach. Well three kids later, I wish I flashed the hell out of that stomach. Ah well. I will never, ever have taut, toned abs unless I cough up a lot of money for surgery (seriously even if I halved my weight I know I would still have a squashy, baggy middle). If only "Loving Our Bodies" was a switch we could all turn on. Getting over it is good, but I think you also raise the idea of not taking things (body parts) for granted. Thanks for the food for thought Susan!

Jess said...

Oh yes. The past two months I have been in tears over my hair. Me. A cancer survivor who once lost all of her hair, every single little hair. Hello Major Life Trauma. So I should KNOW that having hair to complain about is a luxury. But time fades the pain I guess because tears I have shed. Real tears over one section of hair on my head. Sigh. I don't know when I will absorb this advice my mind knows but doesn't follow: "would I let my friend talk this way about herself? No? Then why do I let myself talk this way about me?"

SILENCE. There is no answer to my question.

asphaltandair said...

three cheers for you, girlfriend!
"getting over it" is a good theme for all of us.
thanks so much for sharing here.
you've given me a nice little push in the right direction to give my body a bit more love, love that she deserves.
and you're totally right about when you look back on life....what will have mattered?
certainly those hours i spent fretting over bits of my body will not be top of mind.
just time wasted when i could have been enjoying. enjoying life.

Patty said...

you're so right! physical appearance isn't what really matters... but it's hard to live in harmony with what nature gave us. I hate my teeth, my bottom, my feet and those tiny vessels on my legs... but that body carried what I cherish most in our life: our Little Fairy (and still doing a good job with our second little one on the way). so, I SHOULD be thankful but... there still seems a long way to wisedom :-)
xs

Cheryl Arkison said...

I had two lightbulb moments regarding body image in the past few years.

The first was the day stretchmarks appeared on my tummy with my first daughter. I was 36 weeks and so close. At dinner that night I could tell that she had dropped, so I was investigating my profile in the mirror before bed. I lifted my shirt and totally screamed. My husband came running down the hall, fearing the worst (I was on bed rest afterall with some serious risks to mine and baby's health). Nope, just some stretch marks. So while I'm whining and crying, yes, crying, he is tearing a strip off me for losing it because of stretchmarks. Stretchmarks! Point taken. At the end of my tears I told him that he now had to find my tummy the sexiest part of me. He wrapped me in his arms, said just the right words, and I've never looked back. Yes, I have a stretchmark covered jelly belly but I'm proud of it and besides, only a few people know it exists and the most important one still finds me sexy.

The second instance was when I had my daughter. I was watching - of all things - Oprah. And these moms were complaining about how their teenage daughters had body image issues but it was plainly obvious where they got it from, and it wasn't their classmates! I had my Oprah A-Ha moment right then and there. Literally in an instant I realized that I couldn't get hung up on body image because this little being would be watching my every move. And boy does she! She's only three but I can already see how she would and does pick things up from me (like her tendency to swear). So even if I'm having a fat day I keep my mouth shut and concentrate on giving some extra tickles to her. Works every time.

And really, it's been freeing. I can concentrate on what my body can physically do rather than what it looks like. Now, if only I had smaller feet. Size 11s are tough to fit!

amandajean said...

thanks so much for posting this, susan. i was trying on jeans yesterday. and the mirror was NOT being friendly to me. seems age=body shifting. ugh. and it seems to be quite unkind to me. i haven't gained any weight, it's just pooling in one place. and it ain't pretty. :) i was complaining about my legs the other day and some woman said something about being thankful that she has legs. it was something that has been replayed in my head 100 times since. i have a lot to be thankful for.

Jamie Watson said...

You are kind to share something we all go through, and I hear that we all wish we didn't do this to ourselves. When we talk to ourselves that way, the simple answer is, that is not the truth. The truth is, we are all perfect and beautiful and loved. When we find ourselves thinking any differently, it is perhaps a signal that it's time for us to reconnect with that higher love and knowledge.

abby try again said...

Oh Susan!
Can I tell you that I relate to this on SO MANY LEVELS!
I am that woman who notices not your flaws, but all of the amazing parts that make you an incredibly fabulous woman.
Lately I've begun to fixate on my slouching shoulders...but oh well?
Better to have lived and loved than be a crochety old woman with perfect posture. You are amazing, girl.
Hope you guys had a lovely anniversary.

sew nancy said...

So glad you wrote about this.
I belittle myself daily. Mostly about my
tummy and hips. And my bad posture
I've never truly felt comfortable in my own skin.

hanna said...

Loved that post, thank you for bringing it up. I very often get compliments for my eyes and my positive energy, but I pay too much attention on my waist wich is non existing. Ridicolous, when you think about it.

All you fabulous women out there!
Smile, straighten your back. You´re lovely!

Anna Allen said...

i really appreciate you talking about this! i think all women have a problem with SOME part of their appearance. i used to have a problem with how white i am. when capris become the fashion, i told myself i would never ever wear shorts again, because my legs were pasty white and i hated that. only more recently have i decided i love how white my legs are and have brought shorts back into my wardrobe. i also sometimes think my arms are too fat, or my face too round... but honestly, it isn't that big of a deal when you think about it. i've found it's sooo much easier telling my girlfriends to stop hating their bodies and love them, than it is to tell myself this. so again, thank you for the thoughtful post. it's a very good reminder all women need to hear! :)

Robyn said...

Problems with body image? Raising my hand. :0) I am mostly content with myself, but knowing that obesity and high blood pressure exist in my family and that I really don't exercise as much as I should (though that's getting better), I know I need to change some things. But gosh, if they would just figure out how much muscle I had, then that little number might not say overweight. I have always been a muscular girl. Still am, though children and time have made it a little less so. In any case, I don't feel overweight; I never have. And I think that's where I have problems. I don't feel it, but then when I look at my legs and see how much bigger they are than others, I think maybe I am. It's a mess and I try to not dwell on it too long because when my daughter says out of the blue that I look pretty, I don't think about the stretch marks or the too big ankles; I think instead about how I'm glad she thinks I'm pretty despite my imperfections and I hope she will continue to look at beauty in that way.